In theory, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City had everything going for it – a great concept set in a beloved universe and a rich, compelling canon to draw from. However, this team-based shooter amounts to far less than the sum of its parts. There’s a distinct difference between a franchise offshoot and a franchise bastardization. Unfortunately, Operation Raccoon City can only be defined as the latter.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City – Video Review
ORC puts players behind the scenes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, particularly that disastrous outbreak in Raccoon City. You play as a member of the Umbrella Security Service, retrieving virus samples and destroying all evidence of Umbrella’s involvement in the catastrophe. It’s a brilliant concept, one that could have made for an extremely badass story and shed light on these well-known Resident Evil events. Unfortunately, all of this potential is squandered by some strange choices and truly terrible execution.
The AI of team members and enemies is simply atrocious. While it’s preferable to play with friends, I was still stunned by how useless the computer-controlled teammates were. Not only are you unable to control their actions in any way, but their every move is unreasonable and downright idiotic. From running into empty rooms you’ve already cleared to constantly walking into obvious trip mines to finding surprising and frustrating ways to get themselves killed, your team offers no real backup or assistance, and there’s very little incentive to even revive them when they fall. For a team-based shooter, this is absolutely unacceptable.
The enemy AI is no better. There were literally countless times where a Hunter would jump in front of me, wave its arms, then dash away or jump off the edge of something for seemingly no reason. When you have to chase down a Hunter and practically beg it to attack you, you know something’s not quite right. And while dumb zombies are at least understandable if not preferable, the fact that BOWs and even human foes act like they have no blood flow to the brain just makes no sense.
As if that weren’t enough, the aiming is downright spotty – blindfiring, at times, is completely broken and enemy damage is somewhat random. Sometimes you can unload an entire clip into a Licker’s face and it won’t flinch, other times a couple of bullets do the trick. The melee attack is also way overpowered. Sure, it’s a fine mechanic for a normal shooter, but not for one set in the RE universe, where your knife is supposed to be a last resort to temporarily postpone death until you find more ammo. In ORC, you can practically hack and slash your way through parts of the game, killing that trademark RE suspense.
The game also implements an auto-cover mechanic, whereby you stick to any wall you go near. It’s beyond annoying when you venture over to pick up an herb and end up sticking to the wall. In fact, it’s downright frustrating and almost never actually useful. Having auto-cover in a cover-based shooter, especially one that’s supposed to be tactical, makes no sense. Perhaps it could have been implemented in a way that was clever and useful – but it’s not. It’s just not.
Good in theory… but only in theory.
As if all that weren’t enough, ORC also suffers from a complete lack of atmosphere, which is simply unforgivable for a game boasting the Resident Evil branding. The set pieces are bland and forgettable, and everything down to the music fails to capture the RE universe or create any amount of tension. The only impressive parts of the package are the graphics and character models, but even those certainly don’t rank among the best of this generation. The story offers no insight into Umbrella’s actions, and its flow and progression are both uninteresting and nonsensical. Sure, Resident Evil is known for its cheesy and “out there” plotlines – but they’re usually at least interesting, and bolstered by memorable characters that are easy to care about.
While you can play as Leon, HUNK, Jill and other recognizable characters in the Heroes multiplayer mode, during the main campaign you’re stuck taking control of one of a handful of bland, faceless USS members with absolutely no personality or story arc to speak of. It’s always fascinating in Resident Evil games when you get a glimmer of what goes on behind the scenes of Umbrella – when its employees are humanized and portrayed as real people who, for various reasons, are capable of unimaginable evil. None of this conflict or depth is present in ORC, and it’s a true shame. As is, it’s impossible to care about what’s going on in the already paper thin story.
ORC’s multiplayer modes don’t help much either, as they suffer from the same problems as single player – namely poor AI, a lack of atmosphere and an environment that is frustrating to interact with (there are literally tiny steps you can’t jump off and have to go around). The only difference is that you have a companion around to share in your pain and assure you it will all be over soon.
In addition to co-op in the main campaign, ORC has four multiplayer modes, each of which supports up to eight players. Heroes mode offers a four-on-four team match that lets you play as notable RE characters (Leon, Claire, Ada, etc.), and Biohazard is essentially capture the flag, only you’re trying to capture lost G-virus vials. Survivors is a fight for survival against human and computer-controlled enemies that doesn’t end until the extraction helicopter arrives, and Team Attack is a team deathmatch – if you and your friends score more kills than the other team, you win. The number of play options would be great if the rest of the multiplayer experience were passable, but much like the rest of ORC, poorly thought-out gameplay mechanics, bad level design and a total lack of tension and suspense bring the whole thing down.
Given the huge amount of potential the developers of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City had to work with, it’s disappointing how little of it was actually realized. On several occasions I was legitimately surprised by the mention of the name William Birkin or the familiar sound of picking up an herb, having long forgotten that this was supposed to be a Resident Evil game. The terrible AI, the lackluster locations and the complete lack of atmosphere or memorable characters destroy what could have been a brilliant offshoot. In the end, Operation Raccoon City is little more than a poor man’s SOCOM, and a destitute man’s Resident Evil.